Japan raised the crisis level at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing high overall radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater.
Japanese nuclear regulators said they raised the rating from 5 to 7 — the highest level on an international scale of nuclear accidents overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency — after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.
The new ranking signifies a "major accident" that includes widespread effects on the environment and health, according to the Vienna-based IAEA. But Japanese officials played down any health effects and stressed that the harm caused by Chernobyl still far outweighs that caused by the Fukushima plant.
The revision came a day after the government added five communities to a list of places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. A 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius already had been cleared around the plant.
The news was received with chagrin by residents in Iitate, one of the five communities, where high levels of radiation have been detected in the soil. The village of 6,200 people is about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima plant.
"It's very shocking to me," said Miyuki Ichisawa, 52, who runs a coffee shop in Iitate. "Now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl." ...
via Japan ups nuke crisis severity to match Chernobyl - Yahoo! News.
This is from yesterday, April 11, 2011:
Breaking news flash being reported on CNN says a new 7.1 earthquake hit Japan today at 8:08 AM local time or 4:08 PM EST. Shortly after a new fire was reported at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
A plant operator is reported to have phoned in the report of the fire describing a fire and smoke coming from the reactor.
CNN said details will follow but so far TEPCO and the government of Japan have not made any statement on the fire.
The news of the new fire is breaking at the same time as news that Japan has officially admitted the Fukushima disaster is equal to Chernobyl and Japan has officially upgraded the Fukushima nuclear disaster to a level 7 incident.